Spotting Sean loitering in front of the hotel, Andrew couldn't help
but grin in anticipation, his old friend always had a ready supply of
entertaining stories. His errands in town completed, he
enthusiastically accepted Sean's invitation to join him in the bar
for a drink. Despite it being barely noon, they ordered a pitcher of
beer and settled at a small table in the smokey room.
Pouring them each a glass of draft, Sean's eyes shone as he told
Andrew about the new bull his brother had bought the previous day.
Sean and his older brother, Mark, were stock contractors for rodeos
and they kept dozens of bulls and bucking horses on their ranch.
"He's fucking amazing, Andy! Only three years old and man, he's
mean," Sean enthused.
Andrew couldn't resist being drawn into his friend's excitement; a
great bucking bull was something to be appreciated. "You rode him
"Shit, no! I'm no bull rider. That's you, all balls, and no brains."
Sean laughed and leaned forward to thump Andrew's forehead lightly
with his knuckles. "I'm not crazy anymore, I stick to the horses
Andrew didn't bother correcting his friend, he 'used' to be a bull
rider but it was an identity he couldn't casually discard.
"You want a go at him, Andy?" Sean asked, not making eye contact.
Andrew knew the signs of Sean looking for trouble, God knows he'd
seen it often enough to recognize it.
"You mean it?"
"Sure," Sean answered but shifted guiltity in his chair. "Just that
Mark can't know about it. He gets so uptight sometimes."
Andrew hesitated, Mark wasn't anybody to mess with, he'd found that
out personally when he and Sean used to find trouble on their
ranch. "So we'd just have to keep it quiet, right?" Andrew teased;
that was always the vain hope of their childhood adventures.
Sean's eyes lit up at the possibility of his friend being on
board. "You bet, Andy. The cattle auction is tomorrow, Mark is
going for sure."
"Rick too," Andrew said absently, although he had no intention of
riding without telling his partner.
"Your leg up to it?" Sean asked gruffly.
"Course, it's been over a year," Andrew brushed away the other young
"Great, I'll meet you at the ranch tomorrow, around ten?" Sean
confirmed as he got up from the table to leave.
"Okay," Andrew agreed, although the churning in his stomach was
telling him something other than it was too early in the day to be
Later, at supper, Andrew rather sheepishly confessed his midday beer
break with Sean but Rick didn't do more than raise his eyebrows.
So cautiously Andrew tested the waters, "Mark picked up a new bull.
Sean say he's something."
When Rick didn't comment, Andrew continued nervously, "Maybe I could
just try it, you know, just one ride, to see how my leg holds up. I
haven't even tried it; maybe that doctor is full of shit."
Rick made sure he had eye contact with Andrew and then spoke
firmly, "That doctor is not 'full of shit' Andrew. You and I both
know that. I'm real sorry but there's no way you're getting on a
He took one of Andrew's hands in his and gave it a sympathetic
squeeze. Sensing he hadn't completely gained his partner's
compliance, he continued more sternly, "I'm saying No Andy. Just so
we're clear, you get on a bull, I'll spank you."
Andrew's face flushed with anger. Snatching his hand out of Rick's,
he stalked out of the kitchen and outside to the barn. A moment
after he vigorously slammed the door it was opened by Rick; Andrew
grimaced at the sight of his displeased expression.
"Do you walk away from me like that?" asked Rick grimly. He gestured
for Andrew to come closer.
Knowing what was coming, Andrew slowly walked over, scuffing the toes
of his cowboy boots in the straw that covered the floor. Grasping
him by the upper arm, Rick delivered two hard swats to his bottom.
Andrew rubbed at the stinging spot on his right cheek; Rick's hard
hand could make an impression even through denim.
"I'm sorry," Andrew apologized but frustrated added, "But you don't
"I do understand, I know how much you miss riding," Rick said softly.
"You don't," Andrew said, surprised at the bitterness in his own
voice. "I was just starting out, I could have been good. ONE bad
wreck, ONE and its over."
"I know Andrew, its hard but you do remember what happened?"
"Yes, I remember," Andrew spat in disgust, "I busted my leg, I didn't
land on my head."
"That's enough," Rick warned the other man and waited for Andrew's
nod of apology. "You broke your leg in FIVE places. You know what
that doctor said, another bad fall and they might not be able to pin
that ankle together again. You could lose your leg, Andy. And in
bull riding, its not IF you get hurt, but when."
"I know, I know, it's just that.....do you miss it too Rick?" he
"Sometimes," Rick answered honestly. "But you know now that we've
got the cattle we can't travel like that anymore anyways." And it
was different for him; he knew that, he'd already ridden the rodeo
circuit for several years before he met Andy.
"Doesn't matter anyway." Andrew shrugged, "I've probably lost my
nerve." He turned away from Rick, ashamed at his admission of
Taking his arm, Rick turned Andrew to face him, "You've got more try
than anyone I know Andy. And there are lots of different kinds of
courage. Climbing onto a bull doesn't prove you're a man." He
pulled Andrew into his arms and held him, cupping the back of his
head and drawing it against his strong shoulder. "I love you Andy, I
don't want you hurting like that again," he said gently into his
ear. "You've got nothing to prove, not to me."
Andrew nodded and leaned into the embrace, letting Rick ease his
doubts. But that night, as he lay in bed next to Rick, he continued
to be tormented by the thought that he was taking the easy way out,
obeying Rick just so he wouldn't have to test himself. By morning he
was exhausted and still torn between the strong desire to obey his
parner and the need to affirm his courage.
"I'm leaving now," Rick called. "I'll be back by supper. Have a
"You too," answered Andrew automatically, then went back to washing
the breakfast dishes, still agonizing over his decision whether to go
to Sean's ranch that morning. Finally, he went to the spare bedroom
where he pulled out a box from the bottom of the closet. His breath
caught when he opened it and saw the contents for the first time in a
year. The chaps and vest had been carefully cleaned, all traces of
the blood were gone and his bull rope and glove were resting on top
of them. Andrew was unprepared for the sharpness of his emotions;
fear, excitment and longing all rising up. He sat for a while
longer, brutally pushing down all of his feelings until he numbly got
up and taking the box with him, he went out to his truck.
Half an hour later he was at the ranch and Sean was greeting him,
literally bouncing on his heels in excitement. If Andrew had
harbored any lingering doubts, they were firmly pushed aside; backing
out now wasn't an option. Two of the ranch hands had volunteered to
act as bullfighters; several of the other men were hanging around,
waiting to see the new bull in action.
Andrw donned his vest and chaps, as nonchalantly as he could
considering the violent rolling of his stomach. With trembling hands
he fixed the spurs onto his cowboy boots and then walked over to the
holding corral where the bull was waiting. Andrew's throat
constricted when the black bull turned to regard him with a wild-eyed
stare, and unable to swallow, he spit into the dirt. One of the men
on horseback herded the animal into the chute, ready for Andrew to
Sean kept up a running commentary of the bull's features, all of
which Andrew, in his numbed state, couldn't process. "He spins to
the right, mostly. Since you're right-handed that'll work good for
"Why, exactly, doesn't Mark want him rode?" Andrew finally asked
suspiciously. The bull was very large and Andrew didn't like the
look in his eye, he looked rank to him.
"Says he's unpredicatble, wants to watch him for a while to see if
he's too dangerous," shrugged Sean. "But not for a pro like you,
Andy. He just wouldn't want an amateur on him."
The bull was in the chute, banging against the sides, his horns
clanging loudly on the steel rods. The bull belt already encircled
the animal's girth and Andrew quickly tied on his soft leather
glove. Ignoring the tightness of his chest, he climbed the metal
fence of the chute, hovering over the back of the heaving bull,
working on shutting down the memories of pain and fear flooding him.
Jamming his Stetson onto his head he prepared the rope handle,
lowered himself onto the bull and gritting his teeth, he gave a curt
nod to the gatekeeper. At the signal, the chute door was swung open
and the bull exploded into the corral, with Andrew, one hand high in
the air, on his back.
Andrew was dimly aware of the two men on horseback near him but his
whole purpose was fixated on hanging onto the rope, keeping his free
hand from touching the bull and trying to anticipate the animal's
movements. His instincts were still good but his right leg felt
stiff and it was difficult to grip the bull's sides, as he twisted
and bucked across the dirt corral. A lifetime seemed to pass until
he heard a horn sound, indicating eight seconds were up. Andrew
tried to time his dismount from the bull, aiming to jump when the
bull was spinning away, to avoid getting hung up on the horns.
The pain in his right ankle was agonizing when he landed. He rolled
in the dirt, unable to stand, although all his instincts of self-
preservation were screaming at him to get up and run; anything to get
away from the 2000 pounds of fury that was coming towards him.
Despite the bullfighter's desperate efforts to turn the bull away, he
was so close Andrew could feel his hot breath. He turned onto his
belly, covering his face with his hands and waited for the bull's
horns to catch him. Dirt sprayed against him as the hooves landed
beside his head, but then miraculously the bull moved away and Andrew
felt his arms being gripped and he was dragged to safety at the side
of the corral.
"Jesus Andy! Some ride!" Sean shouted. "You all right? That was
"Yeah, I"m okay," breathed Andrew, trying to steady his voice. His
ankle was throbbing, not the overwhelming pain of a break but he knew
it was pretty bad. The men had chased the bull back into the holding
area, so Andrew grasped hold of the fence and pulled himself upright,
cautiously putting weight on his right leg. He couldn't help but
gasp, it hurt and for the first time that morning he began to think
clearly. There was no way to hide this from Rick without lying his
One of the cowboys respectfully returned Andrew's hat, congratulating
him on a great ride, but Andrew felt no satisfaction in what he'd
done, only the dawning realization that he had made a horrible
mistake. The relief, he expected to feel at finding he did have the
courage to ride was totally absent, instead he only felt burning
shame at having disobeyed Rick.
Laying on the leather couch in the ranch's familiar living room,
Andrew's ankle swathed in ice packs, Sean and Andrew's desultory
conversation was suddenly interrupted by a loud bellow.
"Holy shit, it's Mark," Sean whispered in panic. Memories, fron
several years back, of lighting the haystack on fire trying to sneak
a smoke, made both men's backsides involuntarily clench. Their
eyebrows and eyelashes had been singed off, unsuccessfully trying to
put out the fire without Mark finding out. After he helped them
douse the flames, he'd lit a fire of his own on their butts with his
"What are you doing home?"
"There wasn't anything I wanted to bid on. Damn good thing I did
come home," Mark said angrily. "Why is that new bull out; I told you
he was too dangerous to ride, didn't I?"
"Yes, sir," Sean admitted. "But Andy's a pro; he's rode lots of
Mark turned to Andrew and asked, "How long were you on the pro
Andrew shrugged, embarrassed, "Couple of months, maybe."
Mark's face was grim, "And you're not even supposed to be riding, are
"No." Andrew muttered. Obviously Mark had talked to Rick about this
at some point.
Sean interrupted, protesting, "He said he was fine."
"Neither of you have the brains God gave chickens," Mark said in
exasperation. "I told you that bull wasn't to be ridden. End of
story. If you don't start making better choices, little brother, I'm
going to tell the men they only take orders from me."
Sean flushed with shame. "I'm sorry, Andy. It was really stupid of
me, I just really wanted to see that bull in action but I didn't have
the guts to do it myself."
Sighing, Mark turned his attention back to the forlorn young man on
the couch, "How's your leg Andy? Do you need to go to the hospital?"
"No, sir. Really, it's just sore. I'd better be getting home; the
cattle need to be fed."
"I'll drive you; Sean can drive your truck. It's the least he can
The brothers fed the cattle and settled Andrew on his own couch
before leaving. Despite his worry, he eventually dozed off and the
sound of the screen door slamming startled him. He sat bolt upright,
his heart thumping when he saw the solid figure of his partner framed
in the doorway of the living room. Rick didn't say anything, just
sat down in the corner of their couch and pulled Andrew against him
so his back was leaning on his broad chest. His hand snaked under
Andrew's shirt and he gently rubbed the lean belly.
Andrew's body was rigid with anxiety, too ashamed to force the words
out to confess his disobedience, he sat in silence.
"Mark called me on my cell," Rick said quietly. "Wanted to know how
your leg was."
Andrew turned so that his burning face was buried against Rick's hard
stomach, too ashamed to look at him. When he finally raised his head
to speak, his words were incoherent and punctuated by harsh sobs.
"All right, Andy, all right. Just cry it out for a bit." Rick held
him tight for several moments as Andrew's body was racked by sobs,
his guilt and the stress of the day overwhelming him.
When he was calmer, Rick eased him gently away, so he could make eye
contact, "I'm just going to get you a drink." Patiently Rick waited
until Andy drank the water and got himself under control.
Nodding, Andrew wiped the tears from his face with his
sleeve. "Yeah, thanks."
"Let me look at your leg." Rick breathed a sigh of relief when he
determined Andrew's ankle was only sprained.
"So, you went bull riding today?" Rick's deep voice wasn't angry,
only tinged with a disappointment that Andrew found unbearable.
"Yes, sir." Andrew forced out the admission with difficulty. "I'm
sorry. I know I shouldn't have. I'll never do it again, I swear."
"You shouldn't have done it at all. Why, Andy?"
"I thought...thought if I obeyed you....I was being a coward, you
know.... letting myself off the hook..." Andrew struggled to explain.
"Was it worth it? Do you feel better now?" asked Rick.
"No," admitted Andy miserably, "I feel awful." And he did, the ride
was meaningless to him, knowing he'd disobyed Rick had left an ache
in his chest that hurt far worse than his leg.
Rick sighed and said sadly, "Andy, discipline in a relationship is
supposed to make things easier. That's the way it works. I make my
decisions based on what I think is right for you. If you can't trust
me to do that I think we need to do some reconsidering."
"Oh God, Rick. I do trust you, I do." Andrew protested
desperately. "I was wrong, I'm sorry. I'll listen, I swear."
Rick sat, studying his partner's anxious face, for a moment before
speaking again. "Well, I promised you a spanking, didn't I?"
"Yes, sir," whispered Andrew.
"Then I guess we'd better get on with it."
"I hurt my leg," Andrew couldn't help but try to appeal to Rick's
"I know, that's why I told you to stay off of bulls," Rick said
matter of factly, "And you're damn lucky it wasn't your neck."
Andrew swallowed hard, his usual stoic demeanor gone. It was
ridiculous he knew, he could have been killed riding that bull but he
still got on. Rick was never harsh in his discipline, the worst that
would happen was a few hours of a sore backside but his courage for
the day was used up and he couldn't help but beg. "Rick, please?"
But Rick's resolve didn't waver, he just said bluntly, "You disobeyed
me, Andrew. You can work yourself up as much as you like, but I'm
still going to spank you." Then he stood and took off his belt,
carefully removing the heavy championship buckle from the tooled
leather and folding the belt in two.
Knowing that further protests were futile, Andrew struggled to his
feet, awkwardly trying to keep the weight on his left leg and began
to unbuckle his belt. Rick help him balance as he undid the buttons
of his fly and eased the jeans down his hips. Sitting on the couch
again, Rick carefully pulled his partner over his knees, positioning
him so his bottom was well centered over his lap. He placed his hand
on Andrew's muscular bottom; both men were strong, Andrew was able to
take a hard spanking and Rick was more than capable of giving one.
"Riding that bull was a foolish thing to do Andrew. It's a very
dangerous sport, even for a man that isn't injured, you could have
been badly hurt today. If you needed to talk some more about why you
wanted to ride again I would have been happy to listen. You know
that. But you chose to disobey me."
"I'm sorry," Andrew whimpered and shifted anxiously on his partner's
"I know," Rick assured him, and then the spanking began. Andrew
tried to stay still and take what was due him but Rick's calloused
hand at the end of his strong arm soon had him writhing in
discomfort. Pushing hard against the couch, desperately trying to
change where Rick's swats were landing, he managed to move back a few
inches. Two full force smacks on the back of each thigh moved him
back into position.
"I love you Andy. I want you safe," Rick's gentle words released the
tears he was fighting back and Andrew began to sob pitifully. Rick
continued the spanking until the bottom across his lap was a deep red
and radiating heat.
"You going to be riding any more bulls, Andy?" Rick asked sternly.
Andrew shook his head, trying to clear the thick haze before he
answered, "No, no sir," he sobbed.
Gently Rick stroked the heated backside in front of him for a moment
before picking up the the belt. Then ten quick strokes, the bite and
burn of the leather, making Andrew cry out loudly, and it was over.
Rick lay back on the soft couch, pulling Andrew down on top of him,
his voice a soothing mantra, "I love you Andy. You're a good man."
Crying hard, Andrew clung to his partner, still trying to apologize
for his disobedience.
"Shhh, it's all right now," assured Rick, gently rubbing Andrew's
heaving shoulders and back. Gradually, Andrew softened against the
hard chest beneath him and relaxed. Taking a long shuddering breath,
he tried to steer the conversation towards normal.
"Did you buy anything today?"
"Fifty head. No bulls though. Promise." Rick gently teased him.